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I Saw With My Eyes and Felt With My Flesh
(Chapters of the Holocaust of the Jews of Bukowsko and Sanok)

by Yitzchak Zuckerkandel

Translated by Jerrold Landau

a. The Jews of Bukowsko prior to the Holocaust

As one of the few survivors of the Holocaust from Bukowsko and Sanok, I could not make peace with my conscience if I do not contribute my share to the book, the aim of which is to provide an overview of the life and sunset of the Jews of the city of Sanok and its region. Therefore, I hereby attempt to present a brief survey of the life of the Jews of the city of Bukowsko and its troubles during the time of the Nazi conquest, until the tragic end on the eve of Rosh Hashanah, 1942.

The Jewish population of Bukowsko was 700, all wholesome, G-d fearing people. There was almost no person who did not attend the Beis Midrash morning and night, some to study a class in Gemara, Mishna, Ein Yaakov, etc.; and some to recite Psalms and Maamadot[1],; and others waiting impatiently for daybreak so that they could worship with a minyan [prayer quorum], and then go to their small businesses, or to seek their livelihood afar, outside the city.

There were three Beis Midrashes, catering to three groups of Hassidim:

  1. The Beis Midrash of the Dynow Hassidim, whose dynasty traces to the Admor the author of the “Or LaMeir” of holy blessed memory, then transferred to his son Rabbi Dovidl of holy blessed memory, and then to his son-in-law Rabbi Moshe Teitelbaum, may G-d avenge his blood, who was murdered in sanctification of the Divine Name.
  2. The Beis Midrash of the Tzanz Hassidim, whose rabbi was Rabbi Avraham Pinter, may G-d avenge his blood. Rabbi Pinter established a Yeshiva that became the pride of the city, and whose good name travelled afar. Youths came from nearby and far-off cities to study Torah from him and to drink his words with thirst. Indeed, the man was dear and revered in the eyes of everyone!
  3. The Kloiz of the Hassidim of Boyan and Sadagora
Voices of Torah and prayer burst forth from all three synagogues from dawn until late at night. The winter cold that dipped below 30 degrees[2],, and the heavy snow and strong rain did not prevent the residents of the city from conducting their holy service on a daily basis. A special atmosphere of holiness enveloped the city on the Sabbaths and festivals. The desisting from labor was general and complete, even in the few businesses owned by Christian Poles. The courthouse and local government refrained from work on Jewish holidays.

The Jews of the city excelled in charitable and benevolent deeds, and in concerning themselves for the needy of the city. People rejoiced with their friends at their joyous occasions, and shared in their grief as well. If the livelihood of one of them weakened, people would immediately come to his assistance to the best of their ability.

With the increase of official anti-Semitism in Poland in 1937, the Jewish community of Bukowsko suffered from persecution perpetrated by the hooligans. There were several cases where Jewish houses were set on fire. A Jewish self-defense was organized in the wake of the persecutions. Jewish youths went out each evening for guard duty, risking their lives and prepared to repel any potential attack. The Jewish community continued living in this manner with its worries until… Until the bitter and accursed day came – September 1, 1939, the day of the outbreak of war between Germany and Poland.

 

b. The Coming of the Disaster

Like the rest of the population, the Jews of Bukowsko thought that the war would not last long, and that the German enemy would be defeated in the not too distant future. There was special general excitement on September 3, 1939, when

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England and France joined the war against the Nazis. There was hope that peace would return after the defeat of the Nazis, and anti-Semitism in Poland would be relegated to past history through the influence of England and France. How great was the perplexity and fear when, after only a few days, the Nazi troops broke through the bounds of the city. On the Sabbath of September 9, 1939, the Polish Army along with the administrative authorities retreated in confusion and disarray. Ukrainians from all the surrounding villages took advantage of the vacuum created by the retreat, and attacked the Jews of the city en masse on during the early hours of the morning of Monday, September 11. They went from house to house, plundering and pillaging anything that came to their hands. They broke and destroyed anything that they could not take along with them. The city looked like a heap of ruins.

The Ukrainian pillagers had just succeeded in disappearing with their booty, and the Jews of the city were left perplexed and dumbfounded over the crisis that had just overtaken them – when giant transport trucks laden with German soldiers armed with machine guns had already arrived in the city. The chief of the guard jumped from a truck and asked, with a bloodcurdling shout, if there was anyone who spoke German. The wife of Reb Chaim Ehrlich, who had escaped from Nazi Germany just about one year previously, presented herself. With a similar shout, he ordered the crowd to disperse, as the guard returned from the direction that they had arrived. The area was again left without leadership. The days were the Days of Awe in two senses of the term. Rosh Hashanah was approaching. The Jews once again gathered in the Beis Midrashes for prayer and supplication. At midnight on Tzom Gedalia[3],, Slovakian soldiers appeared in the city. Their first action was to pillage the Jewish houses from what remained after the Ukrainian pillage. The Slovaks only remained in the city for a few days.

In the morning on the day following Yom Kippur, a large camp of German occupation soldiers arrived. Immediately following their arrival, they broke into the Jewish homes, gathered large piles of holy books and Torah scrolls, and set them on fire. They destroyed the synagogues in which people had been worshipping just the day before. A few youths, including the writer of these lines, endangered their lives at the last moment and saved several Torah scrolls from the synagogue. Indescribable fear afflicted the Jews of the city. All of them closed themselves off in their attics and cellars, waiting fearfully for what was to come. Anyone caught by the Germans was subjected to cruel beatings.

After two weeks of tribulations, torture and hunger, we were able to breathe a bit easier when the Nazi troops left the city. A Ukrainian enemy from the district was appointed by the district of Sanok as the mayor of Bukowsko. He appointed for himself Ukrainian officials and assistants of a lower rank. He began to torment the Jews with all sorts of orders, commands, restrictions, and bans – new ones each morning. Under the threat of death, the Jews were commanded to tie a white band with a blue Star of David on their sleeves as a symbol of degradation. The situation of the Jews improved slightly from an economic perspective at the beginning of the winter, with the forging of commercial ties with nearby Slovakia. Jewish youths snuck over the Slovakian border, and brought over various articles of merchandise, from tobacco and pepper all the way to thread for sewing and American dollars. Private minyanim [prayer quorums] were organized, where people worshipped in secrecy and fear morning and night. Throughout the day, they wandered outside the city and conducted business. At nightfall, everyone closed themselves into their houses. When a knock was heard on the door, the members of the household trembled with fear in the face of an unpleasant night visit. The visitors were usual Gestapo men – the “Sonderdienst Schutz Polizei” and border guards. The aforementioned demons issued incessant threats, and demanded monetary contributions or valuables from the Jews during that period. However, this era can still be considered good in comparison with the times to come. The following depressing and degrading event is etched in my mind. On a Sabbath afternoon in March 1940, runners set out quickly to the city council to summon six of the important

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Jews of the city who had been communal administrators (parnassim) for many years: Reb Pesach Stern, Reb Menachem Langsam, Reb Yitzchok Fischel, Reb Michel Zuckerkandel, Reb Shmuel Scheinberg, and Reb Moshe Ehrlich. They were ordered to present themselves immediately before the Gestapo commanders who had just arrived from Sanok. The news of this summons spread very quickly, and panic broke out in the city. The Gestapo tortured them for several hours, and mocked and degraded them by shaving half of their beards and one of their peyos. Even this sad event still belongs to the “bright era” of the Holocaust, in comparison to the second era.

 

c. Forced Labor

On a weekday afternoon in the middle of the summer of 1940, three Germans wearing civilian clothes first arrived in the city. (Until that time, we were only used to uniforms.) They went directly to the communal office, presented themselves as directors of the “Auto Heil” contracting company for paving roads. The Germans explained that the company was about to begin paving Ostrotagi Street that would connect the Slovakian and Hungarian borders through the forests around Secnova and Kolacna. Armed with directives from the work office, they issued an ultimatum to provide 100 Jewish young people by 7:00 a.m. the next morning to go out to forced labor in building the road. The pleas of the members of the communal council that the restricted time of 12 hours was insufficient to enlist 100 workers were futile. The Germans threatened that if 100 Jews ready to work were not present in the square by 7:00 a.m., the Gestapo would use their weapons. The Jews, who were already well-acquainted with suffering, were indeed prepared in a united fashion to go out to work at 7:00 a.m. Two buses, larger than had ever appeared in the city before, appeared at the exact hour. The forced laborers, the writer of these lines among them, were quickly loaded aboard and transported to the workplace in the forest. With the same alacrity and the same shouting, the tools were distributed among us, and we were rushed immediately to work. We were transported home in the evening. We were transported to work every morning except Sundays, and returned home after ten hours of backbreaking labor and beatings. I should point out the merit of Leib Werner, the chairman of the Judenrat of Sanok, who intervened to free us from working on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. This backbreaking labor continued until the middle of the winter of 1941. It was stopped when the snow and cold temperatures made the work impossible.

 

d. The Labor Camp

The rains and snow had not yet passed, the buds were not yet seen in the land, the nightingale was not yet singing, and a summons was issued. On the Seventh day of Passover 1941, all of the freed workers were summoned to appear in work clothes within three days. Perplexity overtook everyone, for we knew that their intention this time was to concentrate us into a work camp, the concept of which had already become well-known. We had heard about the meaning of this term from cities throughout Poland. Attempts were made to evade the summons or to not present oneself at the appointed time, but we immediately learned about our mistake. People were given an ultimatum to leave their hiding places and present themselves immediately. If they did not, the matter would be turned over to the care of the Gestapo, and, in the interim, our parents would be taken to forced labor in our place. When we gathered, we were taken to prison until clear directives were issued as to what to do with those who rebelled. This time, we were given only a strong warning to refrain from repeating such things. After 24 hours of sitting in jail, we were sent to a work camp in the forest. The camp was comprised of wooden bunks set up with three levels of beds. In strong language, we were explained the hours of work, what we could expect if we were lazy or we escaped the camp area, which was not fenced in, etc. This time, the work was particularly difficult. Anyone

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who was unable to fulfill the work quota imposed upon him was administered cruel beatings by the German work supervisors or Polish foremen. The Germans were anxious to complete the paving of the road at the earliest possible time. Therefore, we also worked at night. The reason for the haste only became clear to us on June 22, 1941, when the Germans invaded the Soviet Union, and all sorts of military vehicles began to move through the road incessantly. We were occupied in the road work until its final completion at the end of the summer of 1941. The Jews found no rest during this time. Sudden searches, extortion of money, contributions, and other types of tribulations were our frequent lot. Thus, we entered the autumn of 1941 and the beginning of the winter of 1942 with constant tension, fear, and insecurity. The economic situation also became increasingly shaky. Sources of livelihood dried up and disappeared. On the other hand, the cost of living increased at extreme rates. A Jew who received a bit of fish or wheat from a farmer for a price inflated tenfold was fortunate. He would grind the wheat with a millstone with his own hands, and eat his bread by the sweat of his brow. Even such transactions were carried out in secret and privacy, for the farmers were afraid of providing food to the Jews. Hunger set its permanent residence in the Jewish tents. Tidings of Job regarding the establishment of Concentration Camps and the mass murder of Jews began to arrive – at first from the eastern areas that had already been conquered by the Nazis, but slowly from the areas of the Generalgouvernement as well.

 

e. “Kirchoff”

Fear and trembling overtake us as we recall the vale of tears in the Kirchoff Labor Camp. We first got to know the gigantic contracting company for road paving from Stuttgart at the end of the winter of 1942, when representatives of the company demanded that the communal council provide forced labor for fundamental repairs on the roads of Sanok-Krasno. Engineers from the company who entered into negotiations with the delegates of the community acted as if they were friends who were concerned for our wellbeing. According to the best of their knowledge, every Jew concerned about his wellbeing was obligated to equip himself with a work card that testifies to the fact that he is employed in productive work and is participating in the German war effort – for if not, his life is not a life, and he is superfluous to life on earth. The matter was clear, and Jews enlisted for the work this time almost on a voluntary basis. Large buses appeared once again to transport us daily to the work, and return us in the evening. The work was backbreaking, accompanied by frightful shouts and various curses. Our only comfort was that we returned home to the bosom of our families every evening. However, we did not enjoy contentment or rest during the few hours of the evening. The people of the city always filled us in with terrifying news of the atrocities that were taking place, or were about to take place.

 

f. The First Victims

On the New Moon of Sivan, 1942[4], at 6:00 a.m., the Kirchoff workers gathered in the city square as they did every morning, waiting in sadness and silence for the bus to transport them to work. The bus appeared at 6:15, and loaded up all the workers hastily, as was its usual custom. It sounded a quick siren and set out. That day, the sun shone with full strength, and had already been blazing from early in the morning. Other Jews left their houses, some to see off their sons being sent to forced labor, and others to attempt to find a morsel of bread. When we returned from our forced labor that evening, we were shaken by the news of the horrific murders perpetrated against the Jews of our city that day. At 7:00, news spread as fast as lightning that three Gestapo men -- Krotzman, Kwambusch and Schwerdinger – had arrived from Sanok. The Jews holed themselves up in their hiding places in the attics and cellars. At 8:00 a.m., the

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bitter, frightening news that the murderers had killed with their guns ten Jews who had been standing innocently at the doors of their houses had arrived. They did not know of the arrival of the murderers to the town, and they did not have time to hide. The following is the list of the first victims, may G-d avenge their blood: Reb Ben-Zion Schtortz, his wife and their daughter; Reb Yitzchok Fischel and his son Moshe Fischel; Reb Yehuda Leib Zelinger and his son Aharon Zelinger; Reb Binyamin Sofer and his wife; the young man Schlome Stern the son of Reb Shimon of blessed memory, who was honored and loved by all the people of the town. The youth Leizer Schtortz, the son of the murdered Reb Ben-Zion, fought fiercely against the Gestapo man who wanted to shoot him, and succeeded in escaping from him. When the murderers finished their acts of murder, they immediately turned to the communal council, and with their denigrating language, told them to “get rid of the trash from the streets,” referring to their victims. Then they left the city. As the victim Reb Yitzchok Fischel was dying, he was still able to express the request, “Come to my grave to tell me about the news of victory.” Then he died. A mass funeral was conducted for the martyrs. The rabbi of the city, Rabbi Avraham Pinter of blessed memory, delivered a heartrending eulogy.

The fear of death enveloped the city. Two weeks after the aforementioned despicable acts of murder, the Gestapo demons appeared once again. People hid in their hiding places when they heard the news. The Gestapo men rushed through the city in their car to the home of Reb Yosef Schoebs. They took him, his wife Sheindel and their neighbor Reb Shlomo Yosel (known by his nickname Shlomo Fogel) out of their houses, and murdered them at the doorway to their houses. Like the previous time, after the murder they turned to the communal council and commanded them to “get rid of the trash from the street.” Then they returned to Sanok. The murdered people were brought to a Jewish grave that very evening. We returned from their fresh grave mourning, with covered heads[5],, broken and weakened in body and spirit. The sword was cutting down outside, and there was fear inside.

 

g. Prior to the Expulsion

Events progressed rapidly from that time and onward. Tiding after tiding reached us about the deportation and murder of Jews from near and far cities. News reached us that the Jews of Rzeszów and Rymanów had been deported from their homes and city to an unknown location. Scanty news filtered through about the setting up of death camps and gas chambers in Belzec and Majdanek. Then came the news about the disorderly arrival of the “special unit for the extermination of the Jews.” Jews from all the surrounding villages, who had been expelled and deported from their homes, naked and bereft of everything, suddenly entered Bukowsko. Even Jews from Zarszyn and Nowosielce were brought to Bukowsko. The Jews of the city opened their homes widely to the deportees, and shared their meager bread with the Jews who had recently arrived. Thus did we remain, oppressed and anguished, groping in the dark and waiting for the mercy of Heaven.

 

h. Expulsion and Total Extermination

I will admit and confess: I am not worthy to even give an overview of the tragic events and to describe even a small amount of the atrocities that took place during the final black phase. Can a human heart comprehend, and can human thoughts absorb, not with imagination, the feelings of people who were sentenced to death, with a sharp sword lying on their necks? At the beginning of the month of Elul 1942 well-founded rumors that the turn of the district of Sanok for deportation and extermination was about to come very shortly. At the same time, we found out that a concentration camp had been hastily constructed in the area of the destroyed paper factory in Zas³aw near Zagórz. Similarly, we found out that a ghetto was being set up in Sanok, into which only “the fortunate few,” that is, Jews who had a trade that was of benefit to the Nazis, would be housed. The rest of the Jewish population was to be exterminated. The panic and oppression that pervaded upon hearing this terrible news is indescribable. Voices of weeping, prayer and pleading burst forth from every Jewish home. Every person felt that his end was approaching. The ground was burning under the feet.

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People were running around as in a trip, searching for a method of salvation. However, all the routes were shut off. Even our Polish “friends” who sought our welfare, with whom a portion of the Jews of the city thought they might find shelter until the wrath passes, made themselves strange to us. When the Gestapo sensed the panic and melancholy that had overtaken the Jews of the city after their satanic plans for general annihilation had become known, they apparently wanted to prevent instances of opposition of mass hiding by the Jews. Therefore, they resorted to calming tricks. To this end, an “urgent telegram” was sent to the Sanok Judenrat by the high command in Krakow stating that “the deportation of the Jews from Sanok and its environs has been postponed indefinitely.” To strengthen their claim, the Gestapo men went to the Judenrat with a “festive promise” stating that their relationship to the Jews of the city was to undergo a complete change. This “good news” rapidly spread throughout the entire region, and a large portion of the Jewish population of Bukowsko accepted it with joy and enthusiasm.

On day in the middle of Elul, 1942, the Kirchoff workers gathered in the city square at dawn, as was their custom, to wait for the bus to take them to work. However, the bus did not come. The optimists saw this as a hopeful sign that the end of the evil days was close, and that the salvation was drawing near. From Sunday to Thursday throughout that entire week, the Kirchoff workers waited in vain, and the bus did not arrive. The Jews of the city breathed easily, and deluded themselves with false hopes. I will now beg forgiveness of my readers for departing from the general survey and moving a bit toward personal incidents. On Thursday afternoon, two German transport trucks of the Kirchoff Company arrived in the city square from the direction of Sanok accompanied by Jewish collaborators and sycophants, announcing clearly: “Any Kirchoff workers who are interested in the protection of the company, so they can escape from the bitter fate awaiting the Jewish population in the immediate future, must pack their bags within two hours, leave their homes and families, board the trucks standing at their disposition, to be transported to the new Kirchoff Camp that has been set up near the brick kiln in D¹browska.” Furthermore, two Jewish traitors serving the Germans hinted that, in return for payment of a proper bribe, they would be able to accept several other Jews under the protection of the company, even though they had not yet been registered as Kirchoff employees. This news caused general panic. As if poisoned, people ran from place to place to seek the advice of friends and relatives. Should we leave our families, and abandon them to their agony? The decision was difficult and fateful. My father of blessed memory, Reb Michel Zuckerkandel, told me, “I am now close to 60 years old. Both good and bad have been my lot in life. If this comes from G-d, I will cast my lot to G-d. But you, my son, are young, and I order you to search for any means of salvation. Go in peace, and may G-d be your help.” With a heavy spirit, I packed my bag and joined the rest of the Kirchoff workers who presented themselves without exception at the appointed time. When we arrived at the place in D¹browska in the afternoon, senior officials and road engineers from the Kirchoff Company greeted us and warned us, with gentle and refined voices, to refrain from leaving the area of the camp. I cast my life aside and set out for Sanok. In every Jewish home there was fear, apprehension, anguish and grief. I returned to the camp broken and depressed. They did not take us out to work the next day or on the Sabbath. We wandered around the area as sheep without a shepherd. On Saturday afternoon, we received the terrible, awful news from a youth who had infiltrated Sanok that the decree had already been issued that the Jews of Sanok and Bukowsko were to be deported from their homes within two days and concentrated in the Zaslaw Camp. We took council together and decided that we must “forgo” the protection offered to us by the Kirchoff Camp and join our families in Bukowsko at the earliest possible time. The panic, confusion and perplexity of the Jews of the city, as we found them at 11:00 p.m. on Saturday night after

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our dramatic escape from the D¹browska Camp, is indescribable. The men were enveloped in despair and gloom. The women were weeping and banging themselves. With torn hearts, they begged the mercy of Heaven, at least for their children: “Master of the Universe, please act on behalf of the sucklings who did not sin.” We were told that during the day, large signs from the district governor were posted in the outskirts of the city, declaring:

  1. A general curfew is imposed upon the gentile population of the city for three days.

  2. All Jews of the city must be ready on Sunday exactly at midnight, without exception. Everyone must be at the door of their house.

  3. Everyone is allowed to take all of their belongings and movable property.

  4. Transportation is guaranteed for everyone, with all of their belongings and movable property.

  5. After the locking of the doors and sealing of the houses by the Gestapo, every person would be given back the key to their houses.

I knew that a large proportion of the Jews of the city had left, or were about to leave, their houses to go to their hiding places that they had prepared from the outset or to the far-off forests. I pleaded with my parents that entire night and said that if the decree of annihilation had been decreed against us, and our fate was sealed, we should at least be together in the final moments. I also urged my father of blessed memory that we should also seek a hiding place in the thick forests. However, all my urgings were not accepted by my parents and my sisters of blessed memory. They all concluded unanimously that I must return to Kirchoff. After the recitation of Selichot (this was the first day of Selichot) and bidding farewell, my father gave me a significant sum of money, and I returned to the D¹browska Camp with some other Jews. When we arrived on Sunday afternoon, we found out that our absence from the previous day had not been noticed at all. The Kirchoff Company simply ignored us as if we did not exist. We also found out that a new camp for Kirchoff workers was set up in Trepcza near Sanok, and Jewish workers had already been brought there two days ago from Sanok, Lesko, Ustrzyki and other towns. On Monday morning, we were able to watch from afar as the Jews of Bukowsko were led in a long caravan through D¹browska Street, with the women and children, to the Zaslaw Camp. All that day, we attempted to make contact with the directors of Kirchoff in order to find out our fate. That evening, we received reliable information that Kirchoff delegates would also transfer us to the central camp of Zaslaw for “registration.” They also promised us that immediately after the procedural registration, they would bring us back to our workplace under the protection of the Kirchoff Company. I took council with several youths, and we decided to absent ourselves from the departure to Zaslaw. In great haste, we decided to prepare a hiding place in the cellar of the brick kiln. We decided to go out to the forests after the evacuation of the place on Tuesday night. On Tuesday morning, I entered the hiding place along with six other youths. During the afternoon, a Gestapo man arrived from Zaslaw with several Jewish collaborators. They issued an order to all the youths to gather together without delay. The entire process reached our ears in the cellar. My conscience afflicted me strongly during those moments, as if it was whispering to me, “do not separate from the community,” “follow after the majority.” At the last moment, I left the hiding place and joined those marching toward the Zaslaw death camp. We were led through the main streets of Sanok to the large city square, where we were eyewitnesses to the tragic scene. Several Sanok Jews stood before us as after they had attempted to save themselves in some hiding place that they had prepared for themselves. However, they were captured after one day. These people were tortured and beaten before our eyes in a most brutal and cruel fashion by the German Sonderdienst. After the torture, they were loaded upon the trucks and taken to an unknown place. At that instance, we were also warned that a similar fate awaited us if we were to absent ourselves or defy orders. We were arranged in threes and led on a quick march to Zaslaw.

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i. Zaslaw

Photo page 349: Zaslaw, the former camp buildings..

In order to clarify the implication of “Zaslaw” – the place where thousands of Jews were tortured and taken out to be killed – I must note that from the moment of the edict of deportation, the Zaslaw Camp was designated as the central gathering place for the Jews of Sanok and the entire region, including the Jews of Bukowsko, Lesko, Ustrzyki, Baligród, Terka, and other places.

Within only a few days, this place concentrated approximately 20,000 Jews from the aforementioned cities and towns. Fram afar, we could hear the echoes of sounds of weeping, screaming, and barking of dogs. We arrived at the gates of the camp in the late afternoon. The camp commandant, a man named Fuchs, came to receive us with his gigantic dog that accompanied him at all times, and never departed from him even for a moment. Fear enveloped us from the moment we crossed the threshold of the camp. With wild shouts, we were made to run to the western corner of the area. I cannot describe the atrocities, torture and torment that took place in that terrible place. Thousands of people were crowded into a very small area, wandering over the ground covered with mud and slime, thirsty for a drop of water. The traitors of our Jewish people who were member of the Ordnungsdienst ran from place to place, whipping indiscriminately with their long whips. These traitors had no mercy even on young children. The commandant Fuchs presided over the arrangements. Anyone who did not find favor with him fell victim to his mad dog, who would tear the victim to pieces. With great effort, we managed to make contact with our parents who had already been there from the previous day. How have they changed during these two terrible days! We could not recognize them. That night, the night of perplexity, will never be erased from my memory.

The next day, early Wednesday morning, we sensed some sort of preparations. A contingent of Gestapo and S.S. men arrived. After surveying the area and taking notice of their victims who were enveloped in deep fear, they began to make a partition between the western and eastern part of the camp. To this end, they utilized the butts of their guns and rubber batons, with which they beat the heads of the unfortunate people. Their dogs were also utilized for this purpose

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and played an active role in this task. After the task of partitioning had concluded, the members of the Ordnungsdienst set up an electrified wire fence in order to prevent any contact between the two sides of the camp.

 

j. The Transports

It was 9:00 a.m. A transport train with sealed cars arrived at the eastern gate of the camp. At that moment, the Nazi murderers, with the full assistance of the Ordnungsdienst, began to push all the residents of the eastern portion of the camp toward the trains in the cruelest fashion. Were I to take hold of the writer's pen and dedicate an entire thick volume solely to this first deportation, I would still be unable to describe the tragic events during those frightening hours, three days before Rosh Hashanah 1942. Many children were taken from their mother's bosoms in a brutal fashion and tossed onto the cars or shot on the spot. I note an attempt of opposition by a young woman from Ustrzyki who succeeded in injuring the Gestapo Commander of the Sanok District, Schweringer, with a hand knife. The woman was killed on the spot. Ninety people were thrust into each car, without food or water, and the car was hermetically sealed. An armed S.S. man stood next to each car. 3,600 people were loaded into 40 cars. The loading lasted for five hours. The train set out eastward at 2:00 p.m. It is almost certain that a large portion of the Jews on the cars suffocated even before reaching their final destination – the gas chambers of Belzec. We became orphaned! Almost all the Jews of Bukowsko, including my parents and sisters, were among those sent out in the first transport. I was not even able to accompany them on their final journey with a farewell glance. May their memories be a blessing.

Photo page 350: The memorial plaque to the martyrs of Zaslaw erected by the government of Poland.

 

k. The Selection, and the second Transport

Perplexed, cramped, and with all possibility of reaction removed, we stood and watched as the train went off. However, we who remained were not given time to contemplate our situation. The registration and selection began about a quarter of an hour after the transport set out. This activity lasted for almost two full days without interruption – from Wednesday afternoon until early on Friday, which was the eve of Rosh Hashanah. Throughout that entire time they selected, enumerated and counted – for the staff of wrath or for mercy. With beatings and shouts, they made us run from place to place in the area of the camp. The elderly and weak

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to the left, and the young to the right. Men separately and women separately. When the train arrived on Friday morning and stopped at the gates of the camp, the tragic scene of two days previously was repeated in full force. Once again, the victims were pushed onto the train, 90 people per car. The people of the Ordnungsdienst ran around like madmen through the area of the camp, searching for children that had perhaps been hidden by their mothers. With cruelty and coarseness, they removed the children from their hiding places and tossed them into the train cars. The weeping and crying could be heard from afar. At 2:00 p.m., the train set out eastward with 3,500 Jews, to the death camp and gas chambers of Belzec. After the transport, the eastern half of the camp appeared like a battleground to us. Corpses and wounded people, tens of thousand of valuables, articles of clothing, shoes, and all sorts of household utensils were strewn throughout the entire area. A recess was declared. Those who remained were ordered to search for sleeping places in one of the buildings or bunks in the area of the camp. For the first time after three days of fasting, we received a piece of bread and bit of coffee from the camp kitchen. We greeted the new year in despair and gloom. The next day, which was the first day of Rosh Hashanah, they began to make us work, under strict supervision, in organizing and counting the items that remained in the area after the deportation. Anyone who was lax in the work was murdered on the spot or mauled to pieces by the dog. Throughout the entire time, Jews who had been caught in various hiding places were brought to Zaslaw. Any people who were recognized by the members of the Ordnungsdienst as having been people of means in the past were forced to give over their money and other valuables before being killed. Throughout the next few days, approximately 2,000 Jews were taken out to be killed in the hill outside the fence of the camp. Immediately after the deportations, representatives of various enterprises appeared in the camp to request forced laborers for their enterprises. Among others, representatives of the Sanak rubber factory, the railway car and locomotive factory, and the large Tarak sawmill came. On Tuesday morning, between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, representatives of Kirchoff appeared. The youths from Bukowsko were willingly accepted by the representatives, as veteran workers of Kirchoff. We were happy to leave the hell that was called Zaslaw, as we moved from the pot to the skillet.

 

l. Trepcza

Photo page 351: The railway tracks of the extermination transport from Zaslaw to Belzec.

Nine measures of afflictions on the route to extermination became the lot of the approximately 700 men who were Kirchoff employees in the Trepcza Labor Camp. This camp was set up in a very small area, and was composed of several small bunks

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surrounded by a barbed wire fence. Wooden platforms three layers high were placed in each bunk, to house 150 people with terrible crowding. We exited the gates of Zaslaw weak, tired, and hungry. A guard armed with drawn pistols accompanied us with cruel beatings to the San River. There, we were forced to strip and enter the cold water. Nazis in rubber boots tortured us for about two hours. They whipped our naked bodies with long whips until blood flowed. We were at the point of utmost despair. After the torture, we were ordered to get dressed, and we then continued on our journey to Trepcza. When we arrived at the “awaited” camp in the evening, we were received by the commandant Liput and his assistant, who removed all of our personal belongings from us. With beatings and curses, we were pushed into the bunkers, which were extremely malodorous. Noise, tumult, screams and groans from those beaten continued throughout the hours of the night. The day began at 4:00 a.m.. With a single whistle call and blows from the whips, they made us hurry to the camp square. After we were divided into various work groups and given a moldy morsel of bread, we were led for an hour and a half march to Dolina. (Other groups were put to work on the D¹browska road, the quarries, etc.) There, we were ordered to enter the San River and gather rocks from the chilly, autumn water. For ten hours a day, with a noontime break of only a half an hour, we were forced each day to work at backbreaking work, accompanied by cruel beatings. When we returned to the camp in the evening starving, beaten to the point of bleeding, with swollen, blistered feet, we had to stand in line in order to receive a portion of soup. This was also accompanied by blows from the whips and shouts of curses. We ascended the hard benches to catch some rest and sleep. The noise, screams and weeping lasted for hour upon hour. If I finally succeeded to fall asleep, or at least to doze off, in the wee hours of the morning, a sweet dream would immediately envelop me and take me far off in the wings of imaginations… to my mother's home. In my dream, I was reciting Kiddush of wine on Friday night in Father's home. Fresh, sweet challas peered out from beneath the woven cover. The challas gestured to me and called me to taste them quickly, lest I be late. I quickly washed my hands to recite the Hamotzie blessing, when suddenly… a strong fist returned me to reality. This was the camp director or a member of the Ordnungsdienst, calling out in a fury: “Get outside, you accursed ones.” On occasion when the Commandant Liput could not sleep, he would order us to get undressed and run around the camp yard in the middle of the night. During such an event, he would stand there with a group of his accomplices, the sons of evildoers, and beat us with their batons with great cruelty.

The picture would not be complete if I did not mention, for eternal shame and disgrace, the S.S. men and Jewish Ordnungsdienst members – corrupt people and evildoers of Israel – who excelled in their coarsest behavior. I must point out that there were no Bukowsko natives in this congregation of wicked people.

After three weeks of suffering, starvation, backbreaking work, and inhuman living conditions, we reached the point of complete lack of energy. There were many sick people among us, but they bore their suffering in silence and attempted with their remaining strength to conceal their illness. In this state, we found out that the camp directors intended to return us to Zaslaw for extermination, and exchange us for fresher, more productive forces.

 

m. Atrocities in Sanok

During one of the morning roll calls at dawn on one of those days of madness, we were surprised to see a group of Gestapo men in the camp square. Their appearance at such an early hour aroused worrisome thoughts. They demanded approximately 200 volunteers from among the Kirchoff workers to carry out the task of emptying out the houses of the Jews of Sanok, who had been deported from their homes. Despite the danger awaiting us by being under the direct supervision and custody of the Gestapo, I decided without hesitation to join the remainder of the volunteers. Various reasons moved us to volunteer for this dangerous, degrading task:

[Page 353]

  1. Exiting the place and leaving the hell that was known as Trepcza.
  2. Our clothing was torn and worn out, and we thought that we would be able to discard our ragged clothes in the Jewish houses and exchange them for good clothing that had been left behind by the deportees. (Recall that this was autumn).
  3. We hoped that we might be able to satisfy our hunger somewhat in Sanok.

I had an additional personal reason, over and above the aforementioned reasons. I already had in my mind the idea of escaping. While I was still in Zaslaw, I found out in a very unclear manner that Reb Isaac Schwerd of Bukowsko had succeeded in finding a hiding place in one of the dense forests around the Slovakian border. I had hoped that I might find some Pole from Bukowsko in the outskirts of Sanok, who might help me make contact with those who were in the forests. Thus, we were driven, running and suffering from beatings from whips, for around an hour until we arrived in the desolate, mournful outskirts of the city of Sanok. Indeed, how desolate it was! The city that was bustling with Jewish and cultural life in ordinary times appeared as if it had sunk into slumber. Aside from the murderers that ran through the city, almost no living soul could be seen in its streets. There, we were divided into groups of ten people. Every tenth person was appointed as the head of the group. We entered the abandoned house and began clearing them out and transferring the movable objects to the collection center in the Gestapo warehouse. With a torn heart and tears in our eyes, we took account of the poor objects as well as the valuables that we found at times, which had been purchased with great toil throughout generations. We took notice and said to each other: They have murdered and also taken possession[6],. At night, we entered the Sanok Ghetto to sleep. On the fourth day of our work, all of the groups working in clearing out the houses throughout the city were called to present themselves opposite the flour mill of David Barth. When all of the groups, as well as the residents of the ghetto, gathered together in the area of the mill in D¹browska, we were witnesses to a tragic scene that curdled our blood and etched itself into my memory to this day. The incident was as follows: A group of ten Jews, all from Ustrzyki, came across a wine cellar that was apparently owned by a Christian tavern owner in the course of their work of clearing out a Jewish home in D¹browska. The poor people innocently thought that the drinks belonged to a Jew, and indulged. The wicked owner of the tavern took notice of this, and was unwilling to heed the pleas of the poor souls. She informed the Gestapo without any delay. All ten of them, including two 13-14 year old children, were murdered before our eyes with shots from a revolver, with their faces to the wall. The German district governor who was present “comforted” us in Polish that the same fate would await us were we to touch property that “is not ours,” from a string to a shoelace.

The victims were loaded upon wagons and sent to Zaslaw for burial, while we, the living dead, returned to our work, oppressed and downtrodden. We were returned to Trepcza two weeks later, when the clearing out effort had ended. Liput, the camp commandant, came out to receive us as we arrived at the camp gates toward evening. With a cynical laugh, he informed us of his decision to send us for “inspection and convalescence” to the Zaslaw Concentration Camp. We were taken under armed guard to the Zaslaw death camp that very night.

 

n. In the Vale of Murder

Many evil tribulations encompassed me in that vale of murder. Torture and degradation, whose details cannot be described and written down, took place. I will only survey one of the many selections that took place in Zaslaw almost on a weekly basis. The ringing of a bell was heard on a Sunday morning at 7:00 a.m. As Zaslaw veterans, we knew “for whom the bell tolls.” This was a summons for all the camp prisoners to immediately appear in the large roll-call area. Members of the Ordnungsdienst, the traitors from our Jewish brethren, ran out in haste with their batons in their hands and dispersed through the camp buildings, cellars and attics, to ensure that nobody would be missing from the fateful roll call. The few women who had miraculously succeeded in

[Page 354]

hiding their children from the eyes of the murderers and their accomplices, attempted in vain to find a hiding place for their children at the last moment.

Photo page 354: the mass grave of the martyrs of Zaslaw.

It was a heartrending scene as the children were forcefully torn from their mothers' bosoms by these traitors and tossed to slaughter. Pleas for mercy did not help. All the residents of the camp had gathered in the yard within a few minutes – men separately, women separately and children separately. Everyone fell silent as the camp commandant Fuchs appeared in the yard. He was a particularly cruel man, in whose hands the fate of everyone rested. He stood there, with a cigarette in his mouth, surveying his victims in order to establish their fate, for punishment or mercy. Who would fall into his murderous hands today and who would be given a reprieve for additional days or weeks, if they were able to continue to give of their strength for a certain time, suffering harsh tortured and backbreaking work? He began to read out names from an alphabetical list in his hands. If the person called found favor in his eyes and seemed to be able to continue with harsh labor, he was moved rightward with a gesture of his hand. If the person seemed sloppy in his dress or his face did not find favor in his eyes, he was sent leftward with shouts of “lass” and lashes of the whip. He concluded his examination with the letter S. He counted and enumerated, and then said decisively, “all the rest to the left.” Members of the Ordnungsdienst beat the poor people on their heads with their batons, prodding them onward toward the left. My name was among those people, not for any intrinsic reason, but because my name began with the letter Z. When the selection of the men finished, he turned to the women, and the same scene took place. Within a short period, a group of about 30 children joined us. They wept and pleaded for bread. The murderer ordered that food be brought to them to satiate them before death. As I sat at the threshold of the grave and saw from afar the pits that were prepared for us, I could not come to peace with the idea that my end has arrived. Some mysterious force prodded me toward life. The murderer Fuchs approached, with a bag in his hands, declaring, “Give over your money. You have no further need for money.” The poor people removed

[Page 355]

their meager coins from their pickets and tossed them into the sack. He left us and turned toward the woman. He appeared again with Leibush Strassberg, who was one of the close friends of my father of blessed memory. I asked Strassberg for assistance. Fuchs asked if there were any electricians among us. Five electricians presented themselves before him. He registered their names and sent them to the right. At that moment, Strassberg pointed to me and told the Gestapo man: This youth is young, healthy, and fit for work. Fuchs banged me on the head with his baton, and shouted at me to join the electricians on the right side. That time, Strassberg saved my life. After we ran to those standing on the right, we noticed a car with a group of Gestapo men with machine guns entering the gates of the camp. After about 20 minutes, the air filled with the sound of shots that put an end to the lives of approximately 500 men, women and children. This also sealed the grave on the remnant of the Jews of Bukowsko, may G-d avenge their blood.

My life was indeed saved in the aforementioned selektion; however there was still a long journey before the end of the torment and suffering. I cannot give too many details about the additional wanderings in the direction of Zaslaw-Trepcza, and about the daring escape from Trepcza to a small group of friends hiding in a bunker in a thick forest, for my hand is too small to write down even the smallest part of all the events and hellish occurrences that I passed through until I arrived there – as well as our struggle for life after that point. Furthermore, it is not the purpose of a memory book to perpetuate the events of an individual or group of individuals.

I will not forget to mention here that in the Holocaust in Bukowsko, the wood and stones were also destroyed. The Germans ordered the destruction of all the Jewish houses, so that not a remnant would remain of the Jewish community of Bukowsko. During my wanderings almost every night, along with other friends living in the pit in the forest, we went in the direction of the city, several kilometers away, in the cold and snow, in order to obtain a piece of bread from gentile acquaintances in the area. Through the darkness, we saw our Jewish city in complete destruction, a fundamental destruction without any remnant.


[Page 355]

I Will Look At You

by Zeev Schick

Translated by Jerrold Landau

In this hour before the thought
Of a profound death in a living body –
I will look at you
A continuous column,
Of my thick bearded fathers.

And I will see
A sadness of wisdom in your eyes
The wrinkles of your faces hidden
In your bright beards
The sadness of forgoing and doubt
In the wells of your eyes.

The human physicality so
Formed in your grandchildren went up in smoke
A different stream of life unsheathed
The sinking of your soft shoes
Your monuments have sunk in the dunk

Zeev Schick (“Layla Gadol” -- Great Night)

_________

Translator's Footnotes

  1. Daily selections of Bible, Mishna, and Talmud, recited in place of the daily sacrifices. return
  2. I suspect that this means 30 degrees below 00 Fahrenheit. return
  3. The minor fast day that takes place the day after Rosh Hashanah. return
  4. May 17. return
  5. A biblical term for mourning. return
  6. I Kings, 21, 19. return


[Page 356]

In the Sanok Ghetto – in the Zaslaw Camp – on the Train to Belzec

by Yaakov Gurfein

Translated by Jerrold Landau

(This is an eyewitness testimony of Yaakov Gurfein at the Eichmann trial. From the Protocol of Sitting 21, Monday 15 Iyar 5721 (May 1, 1961) of the District Court of Jerusalem – legal file number 40/61 – the court prosecutor against Adolf Eichmann.)

Court prosecutor: I am calling Mr. Yaakov Gurfein

Head of the Court: Do you speak Hebrew?

Witness Y. Gurfein: Yes

Question: Put a kippa on your head. Please your right hand on the Bible and repeat after me: “I swear to G–d that my testimony in this trial will be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.”

Answer: (repeating the oath administered by the Head of the Court). I swear to G–d that my testimony at this trial will be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

Question: What is your name?

Answer: Yaakov Gurfein

Legal council: What is your address, Mr. Gurfein?

Answer: Tel Aviv, Bloch Street 33.

Question: Were you in Poland at the outbreak of the Second World War?

Answer: Yes

Question: In what city?

Answer: In the city of Sanok.

Question: Where is this?

Answer: In Galicia.

Question: Do you remember when the Jews were herded into the ghetto?

Answer: Yes sir.

Question: When did this take place?

Answer: They herded the Jews of Sanok into the ghetto on two occasions.

Head of the Court: In what area of Poland is Sanok located?

Answer: Southern Poland that is known as Galicia.

Question: Western Galicia?

Answer: I would say Central, since it is on the San.

Immediately after the outbreak of the war between Germany and Russia, they ordered the Jews to leave their places of residence and gather into a small residential area. They had to leave their houses and concentrate in several streets, in several houses. However, this was not yet a closed ghetto. We were not yet surrounded by barbed wire. They then took us out to several types of work – backbreaking work. This is how things continued. Around the month of July or August 1942, the Gestapo ordered all

[Page 357]

of the Jews of Sanok to present themselves at the Gestapo offices in order to register and receive a special stamp on our identity papers, which were called “ken kartn.” Immediately thereafter, they ordered the Jewish community council to gather all the Jews, and gave them a directive…

Legal council: What is the Jewish community council? Who was in charge?

Answer: The Judenrat.

Question: Appointed by whom?

Answer: By the Gestapo. They commanded all the Jews, even the Jews of the villages around Sanok, together into a camp that was built by the Jews at the order of the Gestapo. This camp was called Zaslaw. At the beginning of the month of September, all of the Jews from Sanok as well as the area were gathered together and brought into this camp. It was well fenced in. It was verified during the roll call that there were 13,000 Jews in Sanok and its area at that time.

Question: Let us go backward for a moment. Before the ghettoization, before they brought you to the ghettos, were there anti–Jewish actions in Sanok?

Answer: Yes.

Question: What were they?

Answer: They murdered Jews immediately after the outbreak of the war. That is to say, they already killed several Jews and burnt synagogues in September 1939. A Jew who was trying to save a Torah scroll from the synagogue was killed on the spot, and almost thrown alive into the synagogue. Similarly, they also killed many people who they looked for on various pretexts. For example, they searched for Jews who were suspected of belonging to the Communists. Since they could not find any, they took others who had a similar name, or their family members, and murdered them in Sanok.

Question: How long did they give you to move to the ghetto?

Answer: They ordered us to move into the ghetto within one day. That is, from one day to the next, we had to all be present there. I myself worked in the German police buildings in Sanok. We built buildings for the police. They permitted us, me and my family members, the workers and their family members, to remain in this camp under Gestapo guard. At night, on that night prior to the first deportation of Jews, the Gestapo heads of Sanok arrived. I recall the name of the Gestapo captain. His name was Albert Schultz…

Question: What was his rank?

Answer: … He came along with Kurtzman and Mueller. They stood us in a row at night, removed people whom they thought were not fitting for work – that is to say, the elderly and children – and transferred them to the Zaslaw Camp.

Question: Describe this parting, when the children were separated from their mothers. What happened?

Answer: When the children were separated from their mothers, and parents from their children, the women began to weep and wail, begging to be left in the place, since we were working. But they said that it is nothing, they are only transferring them to a different living place, and we would be able to be united after a week. Later, they brought wagons of 10,000 people into Zaslaw. The Gestapo men found about 500 Jews who had not come to this roll call, but who had been hiding in their houses, were sick people who could not walk to the train cars, or children. They put these people, about 500 in total, into jail. My uncle was among them. The next day, after they sent off the 10,000 people, they murdered the 500 people on the spot in Zaslaw. My uncle approached the Gestapo captain and promised him money if he would free him along with his family. They took him to the pit along with the rest. They shot about 500 people at that time. Finally, they kicked him and told him to escape. He returned to our camp. I remember this. He was covered in blood from head to toe.

Question: He told this story?

[Page 358]

Answer: Yes, and he also told me the names of the people who were murdered there. We were still taken out to work. All of this took place in September 1942.

Question: Did the railway line go into Zaslaw?

Answer: Zaslaw was once a paper factory. There was an old railway line there that was not in use. Several months before the Gestapo deportation, the Jews were ordered to build a new railway line and workshops there. They told us that we must work there, since the German Army was in special need of clothing, furs, and shoes. They also ordered us to prepare the workshops.

Question: You believed them?

Answer: We believed them, since every time the Gestapo men came, they called the Jews to present themselves, and declared in their ears that the decree had been annulled and no more Jews were being deported. We were needed for work, and there would be no more deportations, incidents of murder, and shooting.

Question: Did they promise this after every deportation?

Answer: Yes, every time, so that we would not be afraid, so we would not escape, and so we would not wreak havoc. In the meantime, we continued to work there until December 1942. In the month of December, they took out the rest of the workers, concentrated them in several small houses in the city of Sanok, and took us from there to work every day. After all the deportations and killing events, only 1,300 of remained out of a population of 13,000 in June 1942.

Head of the Court: There were 13,000 Jews in that town?

Answer: In that town and its surrounding area.

One morning in the beginning or middle of January 1943, they woke us up. We saw that we were surrounded by S.S. men around the ghetto. They ordered us to arrange ourselves in the yard. They permitted each person to bring a blanket, and they led us on foot to Zaslaw. In Zaslaw, they brought everyone into one hall, and kept us for three days and two nights. On Friday morning, they loaded us onto train cars. In the morning, we heard that the train was arriving, and we saw that there were ten train cars there. S.S. men with dogs stood at the entrance to the train and commanded us to enter, crowding us into these cars.

The legal advisor: How many people were there?

Answer: There were 1,300 of us. We had good fortune, for I counted the people in our car, and there were 103.

Question: In your car?

Answer: Yes, this was a French transport wagon. On the door was written: eight horses or 40 people.

Question: In French?

Answer: Yes.

Question: Do you read French?

Answer: Yes. They loaded us on to the cars together. There was no room to stand or sit. Some of the people lay on the floor and some stood, and we constantly switched places.

Question: Before you got onto the train, how long were you sealed up in that camp of Zaslaw?

Answer: Three days and two nights.

Question: Did they give you food?

Answer: They did not give us any food or drink.

Question: Did they allow you to go outside to attend to your bodily needs?

Answer: They did not permit us to go outside.

[Page 359]

Question: Where did you go to the bathroom?

Answer: In that hall.

Question: In front of each other, women, children and men together?

Answer: Yes, together. We were in the train for several hours. They closed the door. The windows were already closed, and secured with barbed wire. The train started to move at around noon. We were able to see through an opening in the window that the train was traveling in the direction of Przemysl, and then toward Jaroslaw. We knew that they had murdered the Jews of those areas in Belzec. We decided that if the train would turn rightward toward Rawa–Ruska, we would try to break out of the train.

Question: Right would be toward Belzec?

Answer: Yes.

Question: And left?

Answer: Toward Krakow. We still had a strand of hope that perhaps they would transfer us to Plaszow, which was a labor camp near Krakow.

Head of the Court: You knew all this?

Answer: Yes. Day and night, they declared that they required this train for their victory. We did not think that they were constantly taking Jews to be murdered. They always said: the wheels must turn for victory (Raeder muessen rollen fuer den Sieg).

Legal council: You did not believe then that the plan was to murder the Jewish nation?

Answer: No.

Question: Despite the fact that you received information from Belzec?

Answer: Yes, but we still clung to a sliver of hope that some miracle might nevertheless occur. They promised us day and night that they were ending the deportations and incidents of murder.

(10.10)

Since we saw that the train was turning in the direction of Rawa–Ruska, we succeeded in breaking open the window, and several of the people of the train jumped outside. We heard shots each time a person jumped. There was an S.S. man with a machine gun in his hand in every car.

At about 2:00 a.m., after Jaroslaw, my mother pushed me in the train and told me to jump. I jumped out of the train.

Question: How old were you?

Answer: Twenty–one years old. I left my mother and brother inside. I hid in the snow. The train stopped, and they began to shoot at me. I crossed to the other side of the track and hid in the snow. I remained in the snow for two hours until I heard the train move.

Question: Did you see your mother again after that?

Answer: I never saw any member of my family after that.

Question: For how long were you in the cattle car?

Answer: From Friday morning until 2:00 a.m. the next day.

Question: Did they give you food there?

Answer: They did not give us any food or drink there. They did not allow us to bring snow into the car. We wanted to cover our excreta with snow. They would shoot anyone who brought a bit of snow into the car.

Question: Where did you go to the bathroom?

[Page 360]

Answer: In the corner of the car.

Question: Were there women and children there?

Answer: There were women, children, and old people all together.

Question: Can you tell us something about the pillage of Jewish property prior to this aktion?

Answer: Yes. Immediately after they entered Sanok in September 1939, they ordered the Jews to bring all articles of value to the Gestapo building. Of course, the Jews gave over gold, diamonds, and foreign currency. In the winter of 1941, through the intermediation of the Judenrat, the Gestapo commanded the Jews to bring their furs. This was needed for the German Army. There were cases where, for some reason, people forgot some covering or piece of fur. The Germans later conducted searches, captured such people and sent them to Auschwitz. After about a month, they found a piece of fur with a Jew, and killed him on the spot.

Before the general deportation, they ordered the Jews to close up their houses, leave everything in an orderly fashion, and bring the keys to the Gestapo building. They also employed Jews to transfer furniture. Any fine furniture that was found was taken over by the local Germans. I do not know what they did with the rest. In the Zaslaw Camp, I saw heaps of silver utensils, candlesticks, blankets, and sheets. Everything was piled up in an orderly fashion. There were silver utensils that they quickly snatched up.

Question: Tell me, when they loaded you upon the cars of the train going out to Belzec, and you realized it was going to Belzec, why did you not resist?

Answer : We no longer had any energy. We wanted it to finish one, two. This was 1943. After so many years, we did not have any more energy to resist.

Question: You wanted this to end?

Answer: We wanted to die quickly.

Question: Why did you jump out the window?

Answer: Nevertheless, there was an impulse. When we saw that the train was going in the direction of Belzec, some sort of a strand was aroused. We saw somebody jump. I would not have jumped had my mother not pushed me forcibly.

Question: How were you saved from this hell?

Answer: After I jumped out of the train, I walked on foot in the direction of the town of Jaroslaw. From there, I went to Przemysl. I did not find any Jews there. I entered a Christian house. They let me spend the night. After that, I remained in Przemysl for several days, and then went to Krakow. Krakow was a big city. I attempted to enter the ghetto. I was in the ghetto for a little while, and saw that it was bad there. I escaped outside. I hid as a Christian. Then, I entered the Plaszow Camp. Since the conditions were poor there, I escaped from there, and hid as a Christian. Then I crossed the border to Slovakia, and from Slovakia to Hungary.

Question: And from Hungary to Romania?

Answer: From Hungary to Romania, and from Romania to Turkey. I arrived in the Land in 1944 by a train through Syria.

Question: And you have been here since then?

Answer: I was here from then.

Question: Thank you.

Head of the Court: Dr. Servatius[1], do you have any questions?

Dr. Servatius: I have no questions for the witness.

[Page 361]

Judge Halevi[2]: Mr. Gurfein, do you personally recall the S.S. men Kurtzman, Mueller, and Schultz?

Answer: Schultz was the commander of the Gestapo in Sanok. Kurtzman was the “Judenfreund”[3] of the Gestapo.

Question: Where was his place?

Answer: In the Gestapo of Sanok.

Question: And Mueller?

Answer: He was a Gestapo man in Sanok.

Question: I did not understand what you told them, how did they participate?

Answer: They were the worst people with regard to murdering Jews. Captain Schultz came to us in 1942 from Zaslaw. Later, we saw that he had come especially to organize the deportation of the Jews of Sanok. As I mentioned, they came to us, because we were several Jews with families in the camp of the Schutzpolizei. We had hoped that we would be able to work there. They came that night and saw that not all the people were fit for work. There were also young children. Despite the fact that we had previously been allowed to bring our families into that camp, they separated our families from us, and only about 20 of us remained.

Head of the Court: You have been asked to describe the task of each of the Gestapo men.

Answer: at that time, they separated our families from us, loaded them on transport trucks, and transferred them to the Zaslaw Camp for deportation.

Judge Halevi: You remained?

Answer: We remained in the camp of the Schutzpolizei.

Question: What happened to your families?

Answer: They took them to the Belzec Camp, with the exception of my uncle who was permitted to live for three more months. He was present at the time of the shooting of 500 people.

Question: You said something about 10,000 Jews. Were they deported at one time?

Answer: They were sent at one time in three trains.

Question: To where?

Answer: To Belzec.

Question: Was there a separation of those who were fit to work from the others?

Answer: They took all the 10,000 Jews, including those who were fit to work, as well as women, children, and the elderly.

The Legal Council: Belzec was a death camp, not a work camp. There, they did not separate people. They murdered everyone who arrived there.

Judge Halevi: You told about an incident of separation between the families, and that they misled you saying that you would meet up with your families after a period of time?

Answer: They took the fathers and children from us on the night before the deportation. The people who remained in the camp began to plead to them to leave their families with them. They calmed them by stating that it was no big deal. They were taking them to some new place of residence, and we would be able to get together with them in a week.

Question: Who said this?

Answer: The Gestapo commander of Sanok, Albert Schultz.

Question: This was a lie?

Answer: The following day they took them to the death camp.

(10.15)

_________

Translator's Footnotes

  1. Dr. Robert Servatius – Eichmann's defense council. return
  2. Binyamin Halevi. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benjamin_Halevy return
  3. Transliterated as “Judenfrunt” – but likely Judenfreund, which refers to a gentile sympathetic to the Jews in Nazi Germany. The term is likely used ironically here. return

 

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